tv KQED Newsroom PBS February 8, 2014 12:30am-1:01am PST
next on kqed "newsroom," more than 200 flu deaths in california, and counting. >> nice and relax for me. >> why is this year's outbreak worse than others? san jose state university grapples with race-related harassment. the search for solutions now under way. and one san francisco doctor's experience treating kids coping with the stress of urban life. >> folks who are exposed to adversity in childhood have increased risk of chronic disease in adulthood.
good evening and welcome to kqed "newsroom." i'm thuy vu. the number of deaths related to the flu continues to rise. today, california's department of public health announced 202 people have died and 41 more cases are under investigation. why is the current flu strain more potent than last season's? joining me to discuss the broader public health picture are lisa aliferis. editor of kqed's "state of health" blog. and dr. erika pan, director of communicable disease control and prevention for alameda county. before we get into the discussion, scott schaefer went to visit a nearby vaccination clinic. here's his report. >> reporter: since september the adult immunization and travel clinic in san francisco has been encouraging people to drop in for a visit. >> irene? hi, how are you doing? >> reporter: even if it may sting a little. >> you ready? >> yep. >> okay. just a little pinch.
>> reporter: about 40% of californians get vaccinated during the flu season. which runs from october through march in the u.s. this year, even young adults are at risk for severe infection from the flu. in fact, 202 californians under the age of 65 have already died from h1n1. that's the main flu virus circulating this season. when h1n1 first appeared in 2009, it infected up to 80 million people around the world. so i headed to the san francisco department of public health to talk with dr. cora hoover about h1n1 and why getting vaccinated makes good sense, even if you're young and healthy. >> we've been hearing a lot about h1n1. what is it? >> one of the things that's unique about h1n1 is that it is known to cause more serious disease in young and middle-aged adults as compared with some of the other seasonal flu strains. >> do you know why that is?
>> i don't think the reasons are well understood. brian? hi, brian. >> reporter: fortunately, the flu vaccine currently being administered has proven effective against h1n1. this potent flu bug was a big motivator for 33-year-old corey pershing. >> have a seat. you're here for a flu shot today? >> yes. what i've heard about the h1n1 swine flu, it's mainly people who have been dying from it -- it's scary to think about with two small kids. >> okay, thank you. >> have a great day. >> you too, thank you. >> that's really one of the things about flu is that it's very inpredictable. and that's one of the reasons why we recommend a flu vaccine for everyone is that you never know if you're going to be the one that may end up with more serious disease. >> so we just heard h1n1 is the main strain circulating this year. is it more virulent than other strains, dr. pan? >> so h1n1 is a novel strain that we saw starting in 2009.
and it does impact different age groups differently. typically in a seasonal flu season we see most of the deaths and most of the impacts in the over 65. whereas with h1n1, we actually see potentially some level of protection in people over 65 who don't seem to get the serious disease. >> why is that? >> there are a lot of theories out there. one of the main theories is that perhaps there was a similar strain circulating many decades ago that people over 65 have some immunity and are protected. but people don't know for sure. >> and the people who are dying, are they people with underlying health conditions? or are you seeing perfectly healthy people of all ages dying from the flu as well? >> so on the call this morning with the state, they said that 90% of the people who had died had some underlying medical condition. but this leaves 10% of 202, 20 people who had no apparent
health condition and still passed away. >> right. every year healthy people can die from the flu. they've done -- a recent summary of all the pediatric deaths between several years of flu season and they looked at about 800 kids who had died from the flu. i think almost 40% of them had no other underlying medical conditions. so healthy kids can die of the flu every season as well. >> so many people are concerned about this. it seems like everyone has either had the flu themselves or knows someone who has. in fact, it hit home for me very personally because a friend of mine, her husband died recently from the flu. and his service is tomorrow. so lots of concern. how accurate are the statistics on deaths from the flu? is it reported for everybody in every age category or only certain people? >> i'm really glad you asked that question because there has been some confusion, especially this year. the only deaths that are legally reportable to public health departments are people less than
65 years of age. and that's only been legally reportable since 2011. as a result of the pandemic in 2009. >> that's when a state law came into being requiring it? >> exactly. >> what's also interesting is that california is apparently the only state that requires tracking of every flu death. cdc, centers for disease control, requires reporting of children under the age of 18. but it does not -- we spoke to the cdc this week and they do not require that any state report all deaths. >> why is that? >> even then it's probably underreported. because some people don't seek medical care, some people don't get tested. cdc does try to do national surveillance and some estimates nationwide but they're wide, large estimates of hospitalizations and death. >> i would say until the pandemic in 2009-10, that revved up public interest in influenza and concern about pandemics. that would be my -- >> right, and looking for new eppeope
epidemiolo epidemiolo epidemiology. in 1918, the spanish flu, it was mostly younger people impacted as well. and so we're looking for novel strains or new patterns of disease was the other reason it was made reportable. >> and a number of deaths, in 19186 1918, 675,000 deaths back then. the current vaccine, how effective is it? every year scientists have to sort of predict in advance which strain will be the main one in any given year. because they have to put it into the vaccine months before the flu season starts. >> sure, yeah. so every year in the past we've had at least two influenza "a" strains and one "b" strain in the vaccine. this year there's a few different ones. a few that actually have two influenza "a" and two influenza "b" strains. since 2009 we've had this particular h1n1 strain in the vaccine every season. it is a good match this year. even the other couple of viruses that have been typed are a good match as well. >> so people worry a lot about the vaccine.
but -- i mean, the safety profile is really quite good on the vaccine. and i think the estimates they gave today on the call were about -- that children tend to be vaccinated and elderly tend to be vaccinated but adults, that's about a 40% vaccination rate. >> people keep on wondering, i hear this question all the time, can you get sick from getting the flu vaccine? and is it too late to get vaccinated? >> so the -- they've been sounding the drumbeat week after week, urging people to please get vaccinated and know the flu vaccine, for the shot, is a deadened virus. so your body creates an immunity to it but it cannot make you sick. it can give you a sore arm, it can give you low fever for the next day or two. that's uncommon. it cannot give you the flu. what was the other half of your question? i'm sorry. >> you kind of answered it in the beginning.
whether it's too late to get the flu vaccine even at this stage. >> and so we appear to have crossed a peak at this point. they said on "the call" today. but there is some concern that it could rev back up again. even if we have crossed a peak that doesn't mean we're going to zero cases. >> right, gradual decline. >> they're still encouraging people to get vaccinated if they have not been and, no, it's not too late. >> are there warning signs, any way to know whether it's flu you suffer from for two weeks verses a flu that can kill you? what should you watch out for? >> i think the main important thing for people to keep in mind as far as when to seek medical care, if they have a high fever for several days or they're f l feeling systemically ill, really tired, mental status changes or dehydration or other things that could be concerning, especially in people with other underlying medical problems, call their
health care provider or perhaps seek care. but it is hard to tell whether you just have a cold virus or a mild flu infection or other respiratory viruses. there's a lot of respiratory viruss that circulate every year. >> aside from vaccines what are some of the best ways you can prevent catching the flu? >> one is really boring but wash your hands. that will protect you also from everything else that's circulating too. so -- but in addition, there's some people who cannot be vaccinated. so for those people, the state health officials were recommending that everyone in a household be vaccinated. so especially babies under 6 months of age cannot be vaccinated. so if you're in a family with a little baby or you are a caregiver for a baby, you should be vaccinated. the vaccine is readily available. and i have a link in a post that i wrote today, it's very easy to find a match -- enter your zip
code. >> there's nasal vaccine as well for 2 to 49-year-olds, if you're afraid of needles but want the flu vaccine, it's also extremely safe. i get it every year, my children get it every year. >> it's an option definitely. thank you both, dr. erika pan and lisa aliferis. helping children deal with toxic stress induced by poverty. first, the harassment of an african-american student at santo state university last fall has prompted much soul-searching. an independent investigator released his report. he found the university responded appropriately once it learned four white students had reportedly tormented the black student. including calling him racist names and fastening a bike lock around his neck. last night, a task force on racial discrimination formed in response to the incident held its first public meeting. the group's chair, retired judge kordell, joined us earlier to discuss what they hope to accomplish.
judge kordell, thank you for joining us. just first of all, so we can better understand what happened here, tell me some of the instances, the incidents that happened to this black student. >> we know from the fact finder's report there were a series of incidents that occurred in a suite in one of the dorms, a theme dorm where engineering students were. at least 13, maybe 14 different incidents. everything from giving this student a nickname that was racially derogatory. the name was three-fifths, referring to the government-sanctioned rule in this country, slavery, so every person who's a slave gets counted as three-fifths of a vote, so that was for plantation owners so they could have more votes. there was the race-based nicknames. then they would lock him in a room and take the handle off
inside the door so he couldn't get out. then the one everyone has heard about i think was putting a bike lock, a metal u-shaped bike lock, locking it around his neck. there were two instances where that occurred, or at least one in which it was attempted. taking his shoes and hiding them. putting a confederate flag up, first in the window so that those outside could see it, then moving it having it in the common area in the suite. having a swastika, nazi references, up. writing a racial slur on a white board that was in the room. so those are the kinds of things. >> all in all, by my count, 13 incidents over a matter of weeks, about five weeks. why did no one come forward to report this? >> we don't know. the fact finder didn't have the opportunity to talk to the victim. but it's clear the victim did not come forward and say anything. we don't know why. there could be a lot of reasons for that. and there were students who knew. because this victim told him but he asked them to not say
anything. i find that problematic that they didn't say anything. because their silence led to this, this abuse continuing. so that's a concern about, what's the thinking? what's the mentality? what's the moral obligation that students have? >> so once the school did find out, and they found out because his parents entered his dorm room and saw the confederate flag and said, what's going on here? that's when it all became public. this week a fact finder came out with his independent investigations, basically saying the university acted swiftly and properly. in that they did everything from moving the harassment suspects away from the student and then eventually suspended them. what do you think of the school's response and what is your task force going to do now as a result of that? >> the school's response, i have two different observations on it. one is that as consistent with what the fact finder found, there are rules and policies that the fact finder found did not -- they were not broken.
they were adhered to by the university. and that kind of for me begs the question, if all the rules were adhered to and this still went on for this long, there's something wrong, there's a problem. the task force which i chair, the purpose is to look at this fact finding report and then to see what recommendations there are to be made so the university, to implement to see that this never happens again and what lessons we can learn from this. >> so you will be looking at, why is it that this student didn't feel there was someone or a group that he could come forward and talk to. what else will you be looking at? >> what's the training of those who lived on the floor, the resident advisers, students who work as quasi staff, and those who supervise the resident advisers, where were they? when that confederate flag was up in the window and they were told to take it down and they were and there were no further inquiries, that is problematic? it turns out many, many times individuals from staff had to go
to that suite to deal with issues. yet the red flags, they're waving, but it didn't seem to really generate the kind of response it should have. so we're going to be looking at both the training of those who work in residential life. we're going to be looking at freshman orientation. these were freshmen. so they didn't have a long time to be at this school before all this jumped off. so what's the orientation? do they really talk about issues about race and about appropriate behavior? >> you had your first public meeting this week, you'll have meetings every two weeks until april when you have your report. >> what i think is so unique about this process is that there's a lot of soul searching going on. as evidenced by the first meeting that we had. people really talked about the concerns they have. what's unique about this is that this is in a public forum, nothing hidden, tras parent as it gets. it's my hope that what we're doing will serve as a model for
all of the universities within the california state system. this in my view is the proper way to do this. and the president of the university, top staff, administrative staff, were absolutely supportive and are of having this be a very transparent and public process. because as a result of that, you generate trust in the process and trust in the recommendations. >> you're obviously very passionate. judge kordell, thank you for joining us. >> you're welcome. thank you for inviting me. when children are regularly exposed to the stress of poverty, violence, and substance abuse it can have a lasting impact on their mental and physical health. it can lead to physiological changes and illness, even taking years off their lives. the center for youth wellness in san francisco's bay view hunters point is working to counteract the effects of this so-called
toxic stress. scott schaefer spoke with the center's co-founder dr. nadine burke harris. >> welcome. you work with kids who are repeatedly exposed to what you call toxic stress. give us a sense of the kids you work with in places like bay view hunters point and neighborhoods like that, what some kids who live in those places go through. what's life like? >> sure. what we see is many kids who are exposed to things like certainly a lot of community violence, but also kids who are growing up in families where there's a parent with mental illness or perhaps substance dependance. and some of the challenges that they see in determines of just dealing with household function. there's a lot of families where one parent isn't as home or maybe a parent is incarcerated. and so these are the challenges that we see. >> what's interesting and what you've discovered and what others have discovered and you're building on is the idea
that this affects them not just psychologically but physio psychologically. talk about the physiological changes that happen. >> that's right. when kids are exposed to traumatic stress like i just described, it activates the stress response system, what we call the fight or flight system. and that releases hormones and chemicals like adrenaline and cortis cortisol. now we understand kids we previously thought had problems with attention, like adhd, actually what we're seal is the impacts of these stress hormones that are in their body. >> is it a change in their brains, nervous systems, all that? >> so it's actually all of those things. and younger children are more susceptible because their brains are growing, are more immature, and they're growing quite quickly. but we see changes in brain
structure and function, what we call brain architecture. as well as changes to the hormonal systems in the body. and believe it or not, changes to the immune system as well. so they're at higher risk for diseases like asthma and of having worse asthma. and also higher risk for diseases in adulthood like chong obstructive pulmonary disease and heart disease which is the number one killer in the united states. >> you're saying exposure to these stresses at a younger age can take years off a person's life when they grow up as well? >> absolutely. there have been some major research studies that have shown that folks who are exposed to adversity in childhood have increased risk of chronic disease in adulthood. and in fact, those in the major study that was done, between kaiser and the centers for disease control and prevention, those people who were exposed to six or more of these adverse childhood experiences had a 20-year difference in life
expectancy. >> wow. what you're describing sounds a bit like post-traumatic stress disorder which we hear about in veterans coming back from iraq and afghanistan. two questions. is that what we're talking about in these young people? and is it as hard to reverse in kids and teens and young adults as it is in veterans? >> i would say it's a little bit -- what we're talking about is different from post-traumatic stress disorder. and one of the reasons why is because when a child is exposed to a traumatic experience, their brains and bodies are still developing. and so that trauma actually has a developmental impact because it affects the way that the brain will go on to develop. so it's not just a static problem, if that makes any sense. and so the good thing about that -- and this is the promise and the hope -- is that when we intervene early with kids, we have all of that brain development on our side in terms of the ability to do healing
work. >> so what do you do when an infant or young person, 2-year-old, 3-year-old, comes into the clinic, what do you do? knowing all of that, what do you do? >> there are a couple of basic things that we do. number one, we have a home visiting program. so it starts with really going in and looking at the child's environment. finding ways to support the parents. this is two-generation work. when it comes to healing the effects of toxic stress, you have to work with a caregiver to be able to support them, as well as working with a child to heal the symptoms of toxic stress that they're experiencing. >> so you can't take away community violence, you can't necessarily cure a person's substance abuse, you can't get somebody out of prison. some of the problems you described. so what can you do, then? >> so one of the things that we can do is, number one, teach the parent or caregiver -- oftentimes many caregivers have
their own history of trauma that's being repeated. particularly we see this in domestic violence or having a parent with mental illness. and so helping the caregiver have resources and tools to be able to support their child. that's one thing that's really important. a second thing that we do is certainly mental health care. both for the child and for the caregiver. and then the other things that we do are some wellness activities that are evidence-based. things like biofeedback and breathing techniques that help people even if they're in that difficult situation to be able to self-regulate and calm down. >> what's the most important thing you like people to take away from hearing this? they might say, i don't live in that neighborhood, or my family doesn't go through this, why should we care? >> one of the most interesting things about the big study done by kaiser and the centers for disease control was that that study population was 70% caucasian, 70% college educated.
what they found was that two-thirds of the population had at least one adverse childhood experience. and 12% of their patients had four or more. so this is something that affects us all. certainly we see a higher dose in low-income communities. but for every californian, for every american, this is an issue. >> dr. nadine burke harris, thanks for your work and for coming in and telling us about it. >> thank you. >> that interview was previously recorded. scott joins us now for a look at what's coming up. there's been a lot of concern about the drought. now we're finally seeing a pretty big storm predicted this weekend for northern california and the sierra. there's a temptation here to think that maybe we're out of the woods. that's not quite right, is it? >> it's not quite right, it's not even close to being right,
unfortunately. despite all the precipitation that we're hoping for this weekend, one top state water official this week said we could get significant precipitation every other day, now through the end of may, and still only get to normal. >> wow. >> that gives you a sense of how much deficit we have. this is going to help. it does help a little bit. but not nearly enough to get us out of any kind of danger. >> so even if we're in that danger zone still, any amount of rain must hip, doesn't it? >> it does. it can be frustrating to hear, this doesn't matter at all. it does. first of all, it helps with reducing fire danger. we had wildfires up north and down near los angeles last month. that will be tamped down. it also helped scrub the air. you've got a lot of smog in places like the central valley and rain will help clean that up. that's great for kids especially with asthma. it helps with the reservoirs to a certain extent. it's all good, it all helps. but you have to be careful not to think, we don't have to conserve water. or the farmers are going to get
everything that they need. that's not the case at all. >> deep your showers short and conserve. we mentioned the house of representatives drought legislation in our piece on the san joaquin river legislation. the house passed it. but boy, a lot of criticism from democratic lawmakers, jerry brown, even president obama. what was this legislation doing and why is there so much criticism? >> what it would do is reallocate water from the north to the farmers. and it would end these river restoration programs. the republican party, which of course controls the house, is very close to agriculture and farmers. they don't like the idea of sending water away from farms and to fish and to restoration. it's great politics for them. it helps some of those vulnerable incumbents in the central valley, republicans who could be facing tougher races. but in terms of solving the problem, not going to do anything. and in fact, it's dead in the water, so to speak. because it's not going to pass the senate. as you said, president obama criticized it. said he would veto it if it got to his desk.
senator feinstein says she's going to introduce something else soon that would help farmers without hurting fish and rivers and all that. we'll have to wait and see what it is. >> definitely a lot of drought politics going on. >> absolutely. and more to come. >> scott, thank you. for all of kqed's news coverage, go to kqednews.org. >> i'm scott shaffer. thanks for joining us. >> i'm thuy vu. have a great night and a great weekend.
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